The Talamanca Montane forests ecoregion is one of Central America's most intact habitats with very high species diversity. The ecoregion covers a discontinuous area within the highlands of northwestern Costa Rica and western Panama which is protected by numerous parks and reserves.
Talamanca Montane Forests
The Talamanca Montane forests ecoregion is one of Central America's most intact habitats. The ecoregion covers a discontinuous area within the highlands of northwestern Costa Rica and western Panama including the Cordillera de Guanacaste, Cordillera de Tilarán, Cordillera Central and the Cordillera de Talamanca. Outliers occur on the Azuero Peninsula.
Located in the highlands, the Talamanca Montane forests occur above approximately 750 m (2,500 ft) or, in some places on the Pacific slope, above 1,500 m (5,000 ft). At approximately 3,000 m (9,800 ft) they grade into the páramo grasslands of the Costa Rican páramo ecoregion.
The average temperature and rainfall for this area vary from 25° C (77° F) and 2000 mm (79 in) asl to –8° C (17° F) and >6000 mm (236 in) at the highest peaks. The high humidity and precipitation, steep slopes and cool temperatures have limited agricultural and urban development, allowing these moist forests to maintain one of Central America's more intact ecosystems.
Almost 75% of the original forest cover remains intact, with approximately forty percent under protection by national and international parks. However, the clearing of forests for agriculture development and cattle pastures, as well as timber harvesting, have begun to alter the unprotected habitat.
Forty percent of the ecoregion is protected by national and international parks, including:
Species diversity in the Talamanca Montane forests ecoregion is high. Over 30% of the ecoregion's flora, including over 10,000 vascular and 4,000 non-vascular plant species, are endemic to this area, as are a number of fauna species.
Abundant epiphytes cover tree branches and tree ferns are common. Dominant tree groups include the Lauraceae family and endemic oaks (Quercus spp.). The unique oak forest stands found here are characterized by majestic trees up to 50 m (164 ft) tall, heavily dominated by two species: Quercus costaricensis and Q. copeyensis.
The understory is characterized by the presence of several species of dwarf bamboo (Chusquea). Higher peaks and ridges exposed to moisture-laden trade winds support an elfin or dwarf forest characterized by thick mats of bryophytes covering short, dense gnarled trees.